In the photo at left, Dr. Jeff Williamson, a professor in the UF/IFAS horticulture department comments on olive tree growth at the UF/IFAS (Citra) test plot. The plot contains several varieties and a row of high density cultivars. The event was organized by Dr. Jackie Burns, Dean for Research at the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences. The event featured noted California olive expert Dr. Louise Ferguson who discussed the nutritional and physiological conditions in olives and preparing a grove for winter to minimize cold damage.
Other speakers included Dr. Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman from the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology department who discussed Florida olive production and pests. David Holmes, the UF/IFAS Marion County agent, discussed soil and leaf analysis. Dr. Gilette-Kaufman has published a very informative paper on diseases affecting olives in Florida.
Lunch was served and many Florida olive growers got a chance to exchange views and experiences. In the photo, Tom Oleson on left, is 15 year Florida olive grower and Don Mueller (r.) is fondly known as The Godfather of Florida Olives. Don planted his grove near Marianna, FL in 1999 primarily with Italian varieties. Don had produced olives for 10 years and his olive oil won a gold medal in competition against olive oil from Europe and the United States.
Eric Ostmark, the UF/IFAS technician responsible for installation and care of the olive demonstration site was on hand to answer grower questions from growers about cultivation of trees and pest control.The Citra Observation plot was established through a donation of trees from the Florida Olive Council with installation and maintenance by the UF-IFAS Department of Horticulture. The plot is designed to observe several varieties of olive (Olea europaea) to determine compatibility with Florida climate and soils. In the photo below (2016) the row on the left contains several varieties: Mission, Taggiasca, Picual, Grignan, Luccino and Chemlali. The row on the right contains the cultivar mix often found in high-density commercial olive oil production: Arbequina, Arbosona, Koroneiki. The varietal row are spaced at 10′ and the H-D row at 6′. The row spacing is 12′. Since olives are an experimental crop in Florida it is important to keep in mind that cultivation techniques from other regions might not always apply to olives grown in Florida.